How do astronauts vote from space?

Summary:Just because you're orbiting Earth doesn't mean you can't participate in its politics.

While NASA astronauts are orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station, it doesn't mean they won't be able to participate in today's presidential election in the United States. They'll have the option to vote just like any other American citizen, only from the most amazing polling place ever.

How do they do it? It's actually a fairly simple process, Discovery News explains:

Astronauts residing on the orbiting lab receive a digital version of their ballot, which is beamed up by Mission Control at the agency's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. Filled-out ballots find their way back down to Earth along the same path.

"They send it back to Mission Control," said NASA spokesman Jay Bolden of JSC. "It's a secure ballot that is then sent directly to the voting authorities."

Since most astronauts live near Houston, it was up to the state of Texas to allow the practice. In 1997 the state legislature passed a bill to allow voting from space. The first American to take advantage of the new law to vote in a presidential election was Leroy Chiao in 2004.

Unfortunately, this time around, we won't get to imagine digital ballots being beamed back from space. The two American astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station -- Sunita Williams and Kevin Ford -- voted early before they left Earth.

How space station astronauts can vote from orbit [Discovery News]

Photo: Flickr/NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter.

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